Summary: In this video, amateur photographer Travis Nuckolls asks a number of respondents whether they think people choose to be gay. To those who think it is a choice, Nuckolls poses a thought provoking follow-up question: "When did you choose to be straight?" Why are the respondents so surprised by this second question, and what might their surprise reveal about the way people think about sexuality. One answer is that people were caught off guard because they are rarely asked questions about heterosexuality, and this is arguably because heterosexuality is thoroughly taken for granted as the normal and natural sexuality. In fact, sociologists and others argue that the United States is a deeply heteronormative society, which means that it is a society awash in messages that suggest heterosexuality is the normal and preferred sexuality. In a heteronormative society, heterosexuals do not typically field questions about their sexuality, while sexual minorities, such as those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, or polyamorous, are routinely asked questions about theirs. A second insight one can glean from the surprise people express in the video is that heterosexuality is widely believed to be the original sexuality. That is, there is a heteronormative belief that all humans start life as straight, or perhaps as undecided, and then reach a moment when they become gay. This belief is the unspoken premise behind Nuckoll's question, "Do you think being a gay a choice?" and since people appear unsurprised by his first question, one can argue that they subscribe to this premise. In contrast, the premise to his follow-up question, "When did you choose to be straight?" is just the opposite. The follow-up question suggests that people start as gay or undecided, and only after making a choice, become straight. However, confronted with this question, people seem to be taken off guard. That is, they do not accept the premise behind the question. In sum, Nuckolls' video likely went viral because it centered and exposed U.S. heteronormativity and heterosexual privilege by asking people two relatively simple questions. It also clearly exposed the fact that people hold heterosexual folks to a different standard. It is entertaining to watch respondents in the video question their assumptions about sexuality, but it's also useful for viewers to articulate just what those assumptions are.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist